The Case For Diversity On Social Content Teams

6811919_G.0.0Very few people will actively argue against diversity on content and social teams, yet many teams lack diversity. A lack of diversity leads to a lack of perspectives. A lack of perspective can lead to content that alienates and offends one or many groups of people. All of this is usually an unintentional oversight.

An example of this took place this week on Twitter. Ellen DeGeneres posted a tweet with an image of her riding on the back of Olympic track hero, Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. The copy stated, “This is how I’m running all my errands from now on. #Rio2016” She also tagged Bolt in the image.

While we all know that this post is a play on how fast Bolt is, there are also cringe-worthy implications with this image, a white woman riding on the back of Jamaican man. Very few people suspect that Ellen and her team posted this with full intent to imply anything other than the runner is fast; however, once Twitter users pointed out the way people of African or West Indian descent may feel about this image, Ellen’s response was less than ideal.
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Instead of listening with empathy and analyzing what her next steps should be, she replied to criticism with, “I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am.”

Is Ellen a racist? No. Could diversity on her team have prevented this misstep? Yes. It’s likely that her team is diverse, but is it diverse enough that a group who could see this post snowballing into what it has become, step in and advise against this posting without feeling out of place? Often times if diverse members of a team are still in the minority, they may feel out of place calling something out as problematic. The fear that they are being overly sensitive will be labeled as difficult to work with, or the worst possible option— that their opinion will be steamrolled anyway and it’s not worth then expending energy to speak out—can hinder authentic discussions about content.

There are a number of ways this could have been handled. The point here is that if the diversity we see on Twitter was represented in her content team, perhaps a group would have spoken up about the deeper meanings implied by her image before sending it out. And there we have it, the case for diversity.